So, I can’t help but wonder, Am I the only person struck by this? I’m talking about the paradox of this time of the year, the approximately one month from Thanksgiving to Christmas. I just find it amazing!
Here’s what I’m talking about: the fourth Thursday in November, the wonderful national holiday celebrated in the United States of America—Thanksgiving Day. What’s it all about? Gratitude, thankfulness, acknowledgement of divine blessing.
Here’s what President Abraham Lincoln, sometimes referred to as the father of the Thanksgiving holiday, proclaimed back in 1863:
“The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God. … No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”
He then went on to “set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.” He recommended “offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings.”
Isn’t that wonderful? Gratitude. Humility. Recognition of God’s merciful blessings and favor. Never mind that for far too many Americans in the 150 years since that proclamation, Thanksgiving Day has devolved into little more than “turkey day,” or a day to watch football. At least it started out right, as a day of thanksgiving.
But then the paradox. This year it didn’t even wait till “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving. For many retail establishments, it began on Thanksgiving Day itself: “Buy, buy, buy!” “Grab, grab, grab!” “Get, get, get!” Okay, so maybe it’s just because I’m a little older and bothered more by these things. Or maybe it actually is even more crass, even more aggressive this year. But this annual orgy of greed and grab seems to be more offensive and unpleasant in the year 2013 than usual.
An example: At a Wal-Mart store in Elkin, North Carolina, fights broke out as one crazed shopper violently grabbed and shoved in a frantic consumerist push. For what? A TV set! And it didn’t even wait till the day after Thanksgiving. It was Thanksgiving night! And this is about gratitude?
And so it goes on, just as it does every year, for one whole unpleasant month. Spend, spend and more spend. Stuff, stuff and more stuff. Grab and grab and grab—even with a little violence, if necessary. And for what? A day that supposedly commemorates the birth of the Savior of humanity, the One who gave His life for all humankind.
Leave aside for the moment the fact that Christmas isn’t even mentioned in the Bible. Leave aside the fact that it has pre-Christian origins. Leave aside the fact that it’s really a pagan festivity, baptized under the banner of Christ.
Leave all that aside, and you’re still left with that grotesque contradiction, a month ending in a holiday that supposedly epitomizes the Christian way of life, but that really seems to culminate four weeks of greed and coveting. How sad!
Am I the only one? No, I’m really glad that I’m not. Most of my friends are aware of the nonbiblical roots of Christmas, and they do their best to avoid all the commercialism and ugliness of a celebration that has become little more than one giant retail binge.
We’ve featured that information on this website before. We invite you to continue to read the material here on Life, Hope & Truth. And we invite you to consider the true way of life—one of selflessness and outgoing concern, not of grab and greed—described in the pages of your Bible.
For Life, Hope & Truth, I’m Ralph Levy.